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The Get Down (Part II): Restoring Faith in Musical Television

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Delving into part two of The Get Down on Netflix was met with a bit of trepidation, I must admit, but the reasoning is all because of my trust issues and bitter break-ups with music related shows on television.

You see, as a self-professed music lover, I had been down this road many times before. A much talked about TV drama surrounding the music industry and adjacent culture has, once again, come to grace our screens despite how many preceding shows have attempted and failed this very pursuit. Maybe I still haven’t gotten over the cancellations of shows like Vinyl and Roadies, stealing my heart with one season only to be cut short with the resounding blow of a network executive’s gavel.

Creators Baz Luhrmann and Stephen Guirgis deserve much credit for having made this show an on-demand exclusive two-part series to begin with. It must have been a wise and calculated decision in order to take viewers on a fast and wild ride without leaving its fate in the hands of a forced finale, or worse yet, a dreaded abrupt cancellation.

Knowing what I was getting myself into definitely made this show much more enjoyable; this was just a fling, a binge-watch romance that would end as quickly as it started, leaving me satisfied with fondness and good memories. Perhaps this creative duo has cracked the code to creating quality musical television that makes an impact without abandoning loyal viewers with nothing but plot holes and eternal emptiness (I swear, I’m not bitter). This is undeniably something future writers should take note of, not that I wouldn’t love a 10 season, decade-spanning show about rock n roll, but I digress…

Part two of The Get Down picks up right where it left off without skipping a beat, all to the familiar and enchanting voice of Nas, the narrator and impeccably smooth lyrical poet. One of the aspects that I really appreciate about the production is their ability to remain period appropriate with 70s hip-hop and disco fashion, décor and ultra funky vehicle interiors. Even the lighting in certain shots really gave the feeling of being present in an era without LED bulbs and 21st century minimalism. The well planned set placed you in the heart of the Bronx with the good, bad and the sometimes ugly aspects of New York City during a time of civil unrest and revolution. While I did notice that some of the dialogue included slang that is more relevant today than almost five decades ago, it gave this period piece a more contemporary vibe so it became less and less distracting as the episodes raged on.

Part one exhaustively helped us piece together the good guys and the bad guys, for the most part, leaving just enough ambiguity to make us second guess trusting certain main characters. The plot was running on all eight cylinders with many avenues that all lead back to our main character, Zeke Figuero, having to paddle through conflict upstream between his musical group, the love of his life and the prospect of Yale on the horizon with all of the familial pressure that comes along with becoming a young adult.

However, in part two, the plot segues were a bit shaky, leaving the hip hop narrative in the backseat to the impending drama of Mr. Cadillac, Fat Annie and Shaolin as well as Mylene and her overbearing father, Pastor Ramon, and did I also mention that Mylene’s mom is having an affair with Papa Fuerte, her husband’s brother, politician, community leader, record executive and, gasp- Mylene’s real father? But wait, there’s more! Actually, there’s a lot more. So much so that one could easily get lost in all of the different paths and plot lines.

Between focus on The Get Down Brothers, Mylene’s career with the Soul Madonnas and the many tribulations she faced with her father and record executives, the show essentially became a shell of itself in the beginning of part two. While I personally enjoyed all of the drama with my tub of popcorn, the show started to feel like a never ending telenovela versus a show that was based around the ins and outs of the music industry and rise of hip hop as we know it today.

While we were distracted by the dramatics happening within each character’s life, the many messages this show may have set out to spread were lost, especially as we approached the final few episodes where the storyline really put the pedal to the metal. Characters metaphorically and literally imploded with sudden self-revelations and life changing decisions very quickly in an almost avalanche-like path of destruction. Did it all happen too fast? For someone who isn’t as invested into the characters, I’d say the timing was just right. For those of us who would have liked to spend more time dissecting the many diabolical relationships involved and the various salacious exchanges between characters that ensued, we could have held on for a couple more episodes, at least.

So, this really begs the question, will there be a part three? They certainly left us with enough mental material at the end of part two to work with, and perhaps that’s why it ended so abruptly, like a truck flooring itself off the edge of a cliff. The writers are surely onto something with this show, and they could potentially take it further. If this series does return, I’d like to see a little bit more of a streamlined plot focus that isn’t so clouded by theatrics. Baz certainly has a signature style (a la Moulin Rouge) which makes for an exciting set that is alluring to the eye, but it would be good to match that intensity with a stronger and more refined story without all of the extra trimmings. With both Mylene and Zeke venturing off onto their own journeys in the final episode, it could cut down on a lot of the extra storylines and eliminate plot holes that were distracting.

Overall, this show exceeded my expectations and was worthy of a binge-watch, thus restoring my faith in shows about music. Although that musical plot wavered a bit, and involved some musical acts that went on for a couple minutes too long, as they all tend to do, the closing credits left us with the inspiring knowledge that soon after the final scene, the epic record “Rapper’s Delight” by Sugarhill Gang was released- an exciting conclusion that left us wanting more while also imagining where this story could go from here.

Written by: Lea Maric

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‘Abigail’: Bite Me Harder Tiny Dancer

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A gang of misfit kidnappers find their tiny target far more bloodthirsty than they bargained for! 

So, unfortunately, the trailers gave it away and let’s be real that’s why most of us are here, the knowledge that the kidnap victim Abigail (Alisha Weir), codenamed by the would-be kidnappers appropriately as ‘tiny dancer’, is in fact, a vampire. Not a spoiler, point of fact, one of the film’s actual great selling points. And the reactions from the misfit club when faced with a real actual f*cking vampire, range hilariously from the blunt “no such thing as vampires” all the way to, “Are we talking True Blood or Twilight rules or what?” all while covered in buckets and buckets of blood. 

Anyway, the gang manages to subdue and abscond with the aforementioned Abigail, in a pre-prepared duffle bag, like you do, and converge to a new location, a house oddly similar to the one she was just taken from. Welcomed and given codenames by a man who introduces himself as Lambert (Giancarlo Esposito), our misfit club is told to simply hold down the fort in this strange old house with the girl chained up in a room and one person to attend her, for twenty-four hours, and they’ll all get paid. 

As inevitable as the tides, the dopey druggie Dean (Angus Cloud) is the first to die, and we’re going to give that death-style points for inspiring terror right off the bat. The very controlling Frank (Dan Stevens, holy crap yes that is the guy from FXs Legion) is also of course the most suspicious – of everyone around him, sure, but also he himself is totes sus. We don’t learn terribly much about the musclebound tank who gets dubbed Peter (Kevin Durand), he’s your pretty typical little-brains-heart-of-gold muscle-for-hire any proper gang needs, right down to the bottle problem. Sammy (Kathryn Newton), well, even for being a purported hacker-type, she has, like, reality issues. Rickles (William Catlett), he’s arguably the most dangerous among them, ex-military and yet somehow here and involved in kidnapping for a few mills. Joey (Melissa Barrera) is our Final Girl, and though she has the inevitable problems in her recent past, she seems more capable of doing the hard thing and still somehow empathizing at the end of the day. Must be her burning desire to get back with her son. 

The fit hits the shan pretty quickly, and Abigail morphs from tiny dancer to tiny monster, though honestly, the way Abigail spoke the entire time in the film, if the ‘nappers had been paying close enough attention, would have been a solid clue. The performance from Alisha Weir as Abigail is incredible, as she literally dances a fine line between comedy, tragedy, and outright monstrosity. With a face full of makeup and the force of a tiny tornado to back it up, Weir brings to mind the great performances of the vampires in 30 Days of Night who saw the practicality in the need to trap their food, but also, play with it a bit first before feasting! Anything else would give away the absolute fun time that is Abigail, so you should go see it, out in theaters now!

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Scrubs Reunion: The Band Gets Back Together

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Fans of the beloved medical comedy series Scrubs were recently treated to a thrilling surprise when John C. McGinley, who portrayed the iconic Dr. Perry Cox, dropped a photo on Twitter hinting at a potential reunion project. The image, showing McGinley alongside his former co-stars, sparked a wave of excitement and speculation among fans who have been longing for more adventures with the beloved Sacred Heart Hospital staff.

While details about the reunion project are still scarce, the mere possibility of seeing the gang back together again has sent waves of nostalgia through fans who fondly remember the show’s original run from 2001 to 2010. Scrubs was not just a sitcom; it was a heartfelt exploration of friendship, love, and the chaotic world of medicine, all wrapped up in a quirky and often hilarious package.

At the heart of the show was the bromance between JD (played by Zach Braff) and Turk (played by Donald Faison), whose antics and deep bond served as the emotional anchor for the series. Their dynamic, along with the sage wisdom (and relentless sarcasm) of Dr. Cox, provided viewers with memorable moments that have stood the test of time.

As we eagerly await more news about the Scrubs reunion project, one thing is for sure: it’s time to dust off those old DVDs, rewatch our favorite episodes, and get ready to welcome back our favorite gang of doctors, nurses, and janitors for what promises to be a memorable reunion.

But Scrubs was more than just its main characters. The supporting cast, including the eccentric Janitor (played by Neil Flynn), the neurotic Elliot (played by Sarah Chalke), and the wise-cracking nurse Carla (played by Judy Reyes), each brought their own unique flavor to the show, creating a rich tapestry of characters that fans grew to love.

While the photo shared by McGinley has fueled speculation about what the reunion project might entail, whether it’s a one-off special, a new season, or something else entirely, one thing is certain: fans are eagerly awaiting any opportunity to dive back into the world of Sacred Heart Hospital.

In an age where reboots and revivals are commonplace, Scrubs stands out as a series that has the potential to recapture the magic that made it a fan favorite in the first place. With its blend of humor, heart, and unforgettable characters, a reunion project has the opportunity to not only satisfy longtime fans but also introduce a new generation to the joys of life at Sacred Heart.

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‘The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes’: Rebellion with a cause

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The story of the rise of Coriolanus Snow, from teenage Capital City pawn to rising Dictator of the Hunger Games! 

Apparently no one out here in post-apocalyptic Panem has heard of irony and so they name their children things like Coriolanus (Tom Blyth), Tigress, and further off in Hunger Games lore, after swamp plants like Katniss. Corio’s father was a legendary general and that is pretty much the only reason young Snow and his meager family of grandmother called Grandma’am (Fionnula Flanagan) and sister Tigress (Hunter Schafer) are tolerated here in the Capital City at all. 

Most of the snotty youngsters at the academy won’t let Snow forget how far his family has fallen, but he’s generally not concerned with them. What is concerning is the strong disapproval of the drugged-up Dean Casca Highbottom (Peter Dinklage) and the creepy attention of Dr. Volumnia Gaul (Viola Davis) as she lurks in the classroom sniffing out talent. The Dean feels very strongly the annual Hunger Games should end, while Gaul is violently adamant that not only do the Games continue, but that they get as much more attention as possible. And young Snow is stuck in the middle, when the yearly prize money normally awarded to the academy student with the best grades gets switched out for, you guessed it, the student that can make this years’ Hunger Games as entertaining as possible. 

Whilst the students are protesting this sudden change, the annual Reaping is about to commence, and big shock and surprise, Corio’s candidate from District 12 Lucy Grey Baird (Rachel Zegler) is chosen as a Tribute. This is where the film begins to really take off on musical wings, for as it turns out, Lucy Grey can sing. Boy, can that gal sing! She can sing, she can play guitar, she can work a crowd, she can calm things down, she can fire ‘em up too! And Corio, being no dummy himself, instantly plots ways to use his Tributes amazing voice to draw attention to her, and admittedly his own, plight! 

Though far too many people sneer at the idea, Corio takes his position as Mentor to his Tribute seriously enough to sneak onto the tram taking the Tributes to their habitat, which turns out to be a completely appropriate moniker, as this year the Tributes are held before the Hunger Games in a large zoo habitat so the weatherman ‘Lucky’ Flickerman (Jason Schwartzman), host of this years games, can MC the hell out of everything up close and personal! 

What happens at this years Hunger Games and the subsequent consequences to both Corio and Lucy Grey is actually only half the story, and the movie. Coriolanus has always had to be opportunistic, but learning to be absolutely ruthless when necessary under the tutelage of Dr. Gaul, who basically thinks it’s always best to be merciless, is an eye-opening education indeed.  Even after they’ve both been consigned to military service and his friend Sejanus Plinth (Josh Andres Rivera) decides to finally rebel, Corio and Sejanus continue to deceive each other and themselves, to accomplish their separate goals. Not even the love Corio swears he feels for Lucy Grey can save him, or them, from the adamant absolute necessity of the Hunger Games continuing. And after all that’s happened, Coriolanus Snow has gotten a terrific education in the best way to be the absolutely ruthless next Hunger Games advocate, and oh yeah, President of Panem. 

The movie does itself no favors by trying to stuff not one but two major storylines and a bunch of side storylines sadly introduced and then ignored, into the film. It would have been entirely possible to turn Ballads of Songbirds and Snakes into two different movies, separated between feathers and scales if you like, and do justice to the major storylines in both. Blyth gives a fine  performance as a young Coriolanus Snow, but the fact that President Snow is played by Donald Sutherland in all three of the Hunger Games films means Blyth has incredibly large shoes to fill. Rachel Zegler as Lucy Grey is absolute fire, and yes the actress did sing the songs in the film herself, including the Hunger Games franchise epic song, ‘The Hanging Tree’. Every time Lucy Grey opens her mouth and sheer soul-searing music comes out, it provides a distinct counterpoint to the soul-crushing ambition of Coriolanus Snow and further demonstrates the District and Caste separation Hunger Games is known for. And if, by the end of the film, Coriolanus Snow has come to agree that the Hunger Games must continue but perhaps under his own auspices, he has no one but himself to blame when another younger but still rebellious female blows it all up in his face! 

Choose rebellion or conformity for yourself in The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

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